Published Sep 10, 2022 9:00 AM
With backup cameras being mandated in newly made U.S. vehicles starting in 2018, it is inevitable that you’ll find yourself in a car with one, if you haven’t already. Whether you’ve been an Uber passenger or used a backup camera in your latest rental car, your immediate reaction may have been to wonder if there is an easy way to retrofit your car with this newly ubiquitous feature. We were curious, too, and spent some time researching what the market has to offer. The good news is that there are a wide number of types, brands, and price levels for the best aftermarket car accessories, and from these we’ve selected our top picks for the best backup cameras.
How we selected the best backup cameras
Backup cameras are a strange breed, in that what makes a good backup camera is completely different from what makes a good digital camera. While the latter is going to be all about PPI and the other hallmarks of high-quality imagery, including lenses and the like, the best backup cameras focus on functionality. Don’t get us wrong, we care about high-quality imagery from our backup cameras too, but in selecting the best backup cameras we reoriented from the basics and sought out the special qualities that make backup cameras function so well. We combined this research with critical reviews, peer suggestions, and user impressions to narrow down our choices to five use cases.
Things to consider before buying backup cameras
Since a backup camera is going to be installed on your car in some place, oftentimes just behind the license plate, there are a lot of different logistical issues to consider than whether it feels comfortable in your hand like a traditional camera. You’ll also be viewing the typical fish-eye lens in a completely different light when you realize how important angle of view becomes to a backup camera’s functionality. Here’s our in-depth guide for each quality:
Expect quite a few different power sources for backup cameras. These range from connecting to your rear brake lights to being solar-powered. And that’s just for the camera part! Remember that the internal viewing unit will also need a power source. Again, there’s quite a bit of variation here, from cigarette lighter plug-ins to wires that sneak under your dash. We’ll detail our top picks here but if you venture out to make your own choice, do the extra time to research this thoroughly so you know what you’re getting into.
Wired vs. wireless
The debate over whether to get a wired or wireless backup camera is another subjective matter. While wireless backup cameras remove the hassle of wires and are just about the only way to go for trailers and exceptionally long vehicles, they do have the potential to introduce more lag into your system. If we lived in a world where people solely relied on backup cameras for backing up, that would be quite dangerous. The reality is, though, that backup cameras are a single tool in a multi-step process of backing up.
If you prefer an essentially lagless wired backup camera, be mindful that the wire will need to connect the camera (on the outside of your vehicle) to the camera inside your vehicle. This might seem like a hassle but it can be worth it for a quality backup camera, such as our top pick, the AUTO-VOX T2, which also happens to have a streamlined wire system. If you do get a wired model, be sure to check out the instructions thoroughly before attempting to install it to avoid damaging your vehicle.
Angle of view
In this list, you’ll see HD, 1080p, and all other kinds of assorted camera qualities. Remember, though, that these will only help you so much. You aren’t shopping for beginner travel cameras to come with you on vacation; you’re looking for the best backup camera. Instead, the main measure of quality here will be the angle of view.
A high angle of view will allow you to see more in one picture than you could by looking through a single mirror and will greatly reduce the overall chances of danger to your vehicle while backing up. Expect to see values between 150 to 170 degrees for angle of view in high-quality backup cameras.
The best backup cameras: Reviews & Recommendations
The following recommendations and write-ups come after some careful review of the aftermarket backup camera market and combine the top picks of today with specific customer needs. As a result, you’re going to see a mixture of great general-use backup cameras and products that only support a particular car model. In this way, we’ve covered at least one product that will work for just about anyone.
Best overall: AUTO-VOX T2
Why it made the cut: The AUTO-VOX T2 has the best features a backup camera can provide, all wrapped up in a simpler design.
- Connection: Wired
- Power source: Reverse brake light
- Angle of view: 170 degrees
- Full-color instruction manual
- Easiest wired install
- Complete kit works with most cars
- Dust- and water-resistant camera
- Only works when in reverse
The incredible specs of AUTO-VOX’s T2 make it the go-to for a simple backup camera experience. The camera, which sits atop your license plate, has a wide view of 170 degrees, automatically adjusts for brightness, is rated IP68 to protect from dust and water damage, and provides vivid night vision colors. These top-of-the-line qualities carry the T2 heavily, but there’s a bit more going on here.
The T2’s internal display also makes it the best rear-view mirror backup camera. Instead of using a separate view panel, the T2 gives you a new rear-view mirror with a special electronic surface. When you engage in the reverse gear, a portion of your mirror turns into a camera display so you can check the digital view and the real mirror view side-by-side. When you shift out of reverse, the panel disappears and you have a full rear-view mirror again.
While the wired connection might put you off as there is a bit of installation work (if that’s you, check out the BOSCAM SunGo Pro, our best wireless backup camera and a solid “green” pick) you should also understand that the wiring on the T2 is in a league of its own. For one, the wires are limited by relying heavily on your reverse brake light’s power. You won’t even need a wire down to your cigarette lighter up front with you. This one-wire design keeps a lot of the trouble away from you and into the rear of your car.
Additionally, the provided kit comes with a lot of gear, including all of the wire casing and clamps you’ll need, plus different bracket adapters to make the T2 compatible with over a dozen of the leading car manufacturers. From Toyota and Nissan to Acura and Cadillac, the T2 will likely work with your car. Between the detailed instruction manual that includes full-color images and the plentiful YouTube videos showing the installation, you’ll be able to handle it.
Best for RV: Furrion Vision S FOS07TAPM
Why it made the cut: The Furrion Vision S is pre-made to attach to over a dozen popular brands of RV and trailer, provides four cameras for complete coverage, and assembles completely wirelessly.
- Connection: Wireless
- Power source: Wired to marker lights
- Angle of view: 120 degrees x 4
- Four-camera, complete vision design
- Ready-to-attach mounting
- IP65 dust- and water-resistant
- Motion sensor tech with microphones
For those of you into mobile homes, RVs, campers, and trailers of immense length, even the thought of stopping for gas can send you into a rage of panic. One spouse at the wheel and the other outside the vehicle aggressively signing to come back, stop, or turn—the whole event is quite stressful.
That’s why you need something more intense for RVs than a standard backup cam … you need four of them! With the Furrion Vision S FOS07TAPM, you’re getting exactly that: four high-quality cameras with night vision and excellent weather resistance that beam images directly to a 7-inch anti-glare monitor. Now you can know your vehicle’s rear-view, as well as make sure your left flank, doesn’t clip that branch as you reverse out of trouble.
The thing that sets Furrion products above the rest is how many more big brands come Furrion-ready compared to others in the market. This includes Keystone, Starcraft, East To West, and Heartland. In other words, many of these models already have mounting brackets installed, at least for the rear camera. Plus, the entire thing is wireless, meaning no drilling through your vehicle to install your RV backup camera.
With all that you’re getting, it should come as no surprise that this is the most expensive product on our list at over a grand, but remember that you’re getting four times the cameras and equipment, so the price largely balances out in the end.
Best green: BOSCAM SunGo Pro
Why it made the cut: Finally, we have a solar-powered camera option that really works.
- Connection: Wireless
- Power source: Solar exterior, cigarette lighter interior
- Angle of view: 170 degrees
- Speedy install
- Low-light night display
- IP68 dust- and water-resistant
- Customer service winner
- License plate bracket tight
If you’re looking for the most sustainable backup cam, check out the BOSCAM SunGo Pro, which features a solar-powered camera and a low-light night display. It’s all wrapped up in a nature-resistant IP68 shell, as well, so you freely explore nature while putting a little less stress on the environment.
The BOSCAM SunGo Pro is able to be charged from your car’s exterior using a single-crystal silicon solar panel. Also known as monocrystalline solar cells, single-crystal solar panels are the most commonly used and convert sunlight more efficiently than polycrystalline designs. In a worst-case scenario, such as having your car parked under a tree for a week, an alternative USB charge port is available.
One of the things to note about the BOSCAM SunGo Pro is that the bracket mount for the camera, the part that goes around your license plate, is rather tight. Basically, there is a sense that it almost won’t fit, but it does. Don’t let this turn you off of a great product, though, and know that BOSCAM is there for you to help.
Speaking of help, when researching products online, the write-ups often bring up a lot of customer problems. What is much rarer is an honest discussion of solutions that amounts to more than “I fixed it myself.” One of the very promising things about BOSCAM as a company is how often you hear that a customer complaint led to real dialogue and reasonable help from the company.
Best for Jeep Wrangler: EWAY Backup Rear-View Spare Tire Mount
Why it made the cut: The EWAY modifies the traditional rectangular license plate mount and circle-fies it for the iconic Jeep Wrangler rear spare tire.
- Connection: Wired (RCA)
- Power source: Reverse brake light
- Angle of view: 150 degrees
- Made for Jeep Wrangler specifically
- Anti-fog lens
- Low impact installation
- Rearview-mirror display
- Included instructions lacking
The Jeep Wrangler’s iconic hatchback look, with the large spare tire affixed to the back, creates a sense of style and adventure for the driver but also an immediate problem: Where should I put a backup camera on my Jeep Wrangler? The truth is, the options are somewhat more limited for Wrangler drivers, but the EWAY camera is here to fix that problem by mounting directly behind that spare tire and peering beyond it.
Of course, it takes more than just proper, simple mounting to make something worthy of the title of best backup camera for a Jeep Wrangler. What gives? For one, the camera is in crisp HD, provides a full 150-degree angle of view, and sends the view to a 4.3-inch display on a modified rear-view mirror. It’s also using an anti-fog lens and pulling in an official IP68 rating, making it dust- and water-resistant. Essentially, the EWAY gets carried by stats, numbers, and overall value for the cost.
As far as wired backup camera installations go, the EWAY is relatively low impact. For example, the guideline view can be toggled without cutting and you are provided with ample cable length. What is difficult is dealing with the instruction manual, which can be a real head-scratcher. Definitely supplement the instructions with a very visual YouTube tutorial.
Best budget: LeeKooLuu LK3
Why it made the cut: With the LeeKooLuu LK3 you get a 1080p, 149-degree, IP69 camera quality for under $50.
- Connectivity: Wired
- Power source: Reverse brake light OR cigarette lighter
- Angle of view: 149 degrees
- Great installation options
- Above-average weather resistance
- Strangely superior camera
The LeeKooLuu LK3 is your super-affordable go-to if you’ve gotten used to backup cameras and want quality, but don’t want to spend extra for advanced features when upgrading your old car. Instead, what you’re getting with the LK3 is one of the best backup cameras with a relatively simple system.
Two qualities to immediately look at when assessing the LK3’s camera are picture quality and angle of view. At 1080p, you’re getting a really high-quality backup camera in a sub-$50 shell, which is nothing to sneer at. However, this is where we need to remind you of the more important factor: angle of view. And, wow, the LK3 sports an unusual 149-degree angle of view. If you’ve used a newer car’s built-in 150-degree angle of view and gotten really used to it, this will probably feel just slightly off.
Another unusual feature of the LK3, though this time in a positive way, is the IP rating. IP69 is unusually high for a backup camera, with most peaking at IP68. So, what does an extra numeral mean? Well, for the typical backup camera user, not much. This basically just means that the LK3 can spend extra time underwater, a situation that would be so catastrophic for you that the livelihood of your LK3 would be the least of your worries. At the very least, you can rest assured that the LK3 will survive your next torrential downpour.
Q: How much does a backup camera cost?
A backup camera costs between $50 for a simple design for the standard sedan to over $1,000 for a multi-camera unit design for a lengthy truck/RV. Standard designs with all of the best backup camera features will typically cost between $120 and $200. Remember that the manufacturer is delivering not only a camera, but also the wiring (or wireless connection tools), mount, internal display, and other components to help with installation. Backup cameras are multi-part devices and are priced accordingly.
Q: What is a good resolution for a backup camera?
A good resolution for a backup camera is whatever you can see clearly. That answer is a bit cheeky, but there’s something to it. Typically, you’ll only be viewing what your backup camera captures through a small monitor, some made small enough to fit in a portion of a rearview mirror. The result is that resolution isn’t as important for backup cameras as it is for other cameras. In other words, you don’t need an ultra-high-definition camera just to look at the image through a 4-inch screen. Instead, prioritize a quality angle of view so you can obtain the most information possible.
Q: How to install a backup camera?
To install a backup camera, you must first determine what type of camera you are buying, wireless and wired backup cameras install differently. Wireless backup cameras are typically simpler and follow specified mounting instructions given by the manufacturer. For wired backup cameras, however, you’ll need to run a wire from the outside of your vehicle (where the camera is located) to the inside of your vehicle for the monitor. This can take some mechanical know-how, a good instruction manual, or a video tutorial. Where the instructions are noted as being unclear, I’ve included links to quality YouTube tutorials in the writeups above.
Final thoughts on the best backup cameras
Getting the best backup cameras on your slightly older car does not need to be challenging or take an overly thorough amount of analysis. It is understandable to have some fear in regards to installing a product like this, especially with wired models, but offered with quality instruction manuals, online video tutorials, and even wireless models, backup cameras are indeed for everyone. Lastly, our picks for the top backup cameras, including the fantastic budget option from LeeKooLuu, will suit your needs perfectly well except in some special fringe cases.